Recipes — many spirited away from famous drive-ins and coffee shops — for the hefty hamburgers, tacos, tostadas, hot dogs, dips and drinks that on-the-go Californians have made a way of life
by Ruth Conrad Bateman
“California is more than a state — it’s a way of life!”
A quarter century ago, Genevieve Callahan said it in her California Cook Book, one of the first and best of many books on the so-called California lifestyle. To describe it in a few words, as many eastern writers attempt to do alter a few days of observing our ways with foods, clothes, houses, gardens, year-round recreation, is, to say the least, gross simplification.
Such words as “colorful,” “unique,” “vivid” and “mobile” certainly do apply, however: as many meals are eaten outdoors as in. And all Californians seem eager to have a go at all the ethnic foods found among our varied peoples.
There are dozens of ethnic groups here, but the ones that have most influenced the cooking and eating habits of every Californian are the Italian, Chinese and French in San Francisco, Armenians in the Fresno area and the Mexican and Japanese in Southern California.
Californians also have a passion for their own products. Practically everything grows in this golden land or swims in its waters. And some of these are found no place else! Mix this exaggerated bounty, which is available year round, with the exotic traditions of the ethnic cuisines, add a little homey Yankee or Southern or Middle America cooking, then stir it up with the casual, rather unorthodox freshness that seems to come with living here and you have an idea of what cooking in the California style is all about.
As much as anything, snack foods and refreshments show the Californian’s love of color and high flavor with a minimum of fuss and ceremony.
The following favorites you’ll find everywhere — in hamburger drive-ins and sandwich shops, pizza parlors, coffeehouses and juice bars, walk-up hot-dog and taco stands, on the beach or around the family pool, in the patio or by the television set.
Just any place where wheeling Californians stop for a bite to eat and drink. Though tacos seem to be the “in” food with the young crowd at the moment, as pizzas were a few years back, hamburgers and hot dogs are never out.
Perhaps the most popular hamburger is the patty with an option of cheese melted on top, and a thick glop of Thousand Island (or Russian) dressing on a sesame-seed bun, with pickles and catsup on the side. Another favorite at drive-ins where teenagers hang out is the double-deck burger — two thin patties in a bun with a third slice of bun in the middle — a hearty mouthful indeed.
Fast food restaurant signs shown: Taco Bell, Barney’s Beanery, The Hot Dog Show, Arby’s Roast Beef Sandwich is delicious, Shakey’s Pizza Parlor & Ye Public House, Pup ‘n Taco drive-up, Drive-thru entrance – Hamburgers